HC Deb 12 June 1980 vol 986 cc777-8
3. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will take steps to accelerate the constitutional integration of the Province within the United Kingdom.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

No, Sir. Northern Ireland is, and will remain, part of the United Kingdom for as long as the majority of the people of Northern Ireland so wish. But the policy of the Government is to transfer powers to locally elected representatives in accordance with the principles set out in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the "Working Paper for a Conference "—Cmnd. 7763—published last November.

Mr. Marlow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the different constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom gives rise to hope among the IRA and the citizens of the Irish Republic that one day they will be able to detach Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and unite it with the Irish Republic? Does he agree that one way to reduce the turmoil that is currently taking place in the Province would be to put beyond doubt that Northern Ireland is, and will always remain, part of the United Kingdom? Will my right hon. Friend undertake that any proposals that he brings before the House will make Northern Ireland more integrated with the United Kingdom and more like the rest of the United Kingdom, rather than less like it?

Mr. Atkins

I said in my original answer that Northern Ireland is, and will remain, part of the United Kingdom for as long as the majority of those who live there so wish. I have said that on many occasions, as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in the House and elsewhere. I hope that it is now established beyond doubt.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the Secretary of State aware that we in the Liberal Party support his policy of trying to restore powers to the people of Northern Ireland to look after their own affairs as much as possible and we hope that he will stick to his guns on that issue while he is Secretary of State?

Mr. Atkins

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John Home Robertson

In view of the Government's manifesto commitment to review the government of Scotland, will the Secretary of State accept that there will be deep resentment among Scottish Members if the Government bring forward constitutional proposals for Northern Ireland before making progress on the Scottish question?

Mr. Atkins

Being responsible for the affairs of Northern Ireland is quite enough for me, without getting involved in Scottish questions.

Mr. Stan Thorne

Is it the Government's policy to integrate the Irish Republic with the United Kingdom?

Mr. Atkins

My understanding is that that is not the wish of the majority of the inhabitants of the Irish Republic.

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